Earliest Historical Facts of Marshall-Putnam Counties
Also Bureau and Stark Counties

Embracing an Account of the Settlement and Early Progress - Compiled and Published by Mr. Henry A. Ford in 1860
Transcribed by Nancy Piper

Chapter VI:  
The History of Bureau and Stark County


During the years following the Black Hawk war, the country improved slowly.  A post-office or two was created, no no new towns were laid off until the speculative times of 1836-7, when they suddenly became numerous.  

The first was Windsor situated nine miles west of Hennepi, which was surveyed Jan. 15th, 1836, for Augustus Langworthy, proprietor. It was a fine looking town - ON PAPER.  A "Great Public or County Square" was conspicuous in it; and there were roads branching from it in every direction - towards Ottawa, Hennepin, Knoxville, Rome and Peoria, Boyd's Grove, Galena, Rock Island, and the Rapids of the Rock River.  A "Market Square" and "Liberty Square" were devoted to the uses of the public, and there were reservations for churches and seminary purposes.  It was a very fair specimen of the "paper towns" of that inflated age.  In Marsh of the same year, a large addition was made under the name of "West Windsor", with streets bearing the sounding names of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, etc., and a "Judicial Square" and "Pleasant Square" by way of parks, or breathing places for the (prospectively) crowded popultion.  This addition was vacated in less than a year.

Another - a very small addition - was laid off by Mr. Langworthy in 1837, just before Bureau became independant of Putnam.  The village of Indiantown afterwards sprang up in the immediate vicinity; and in 1840, the Legislature united the two, giving the new town the name of Tiskiwa.

Kin-nor-wood was the fanciful title (obtained by joining the first syllables of the proprietors' names) applied to a town located between the Illinois river and Bushy Creek, a few miles below Peru.  Col. H. L. Kinney, of Nicaragua celebrity, Geo. H. Norris, and Robert P. Woodworth, were the proprietors; March 11th 1836, the date of the survey.

The next town in the order of time was Concord, four miles north of Princton, on the road from Galena to Hennepin.  It was founded March 26, 1836, by Jos. Brigham, and vacated Feb. 28, 1837.

Greenfield, a town site of considerable size, was laid off twelve miles northeast of Princeton on the 15th of April, 1836, by John Kendall and Tracy Reeve.  There being several other towns of the same name in the State, another disgnation was afterwards found advisable; and in 1840 it name was changed by Legislative act to Lamoille.

Fairmount, seven miles northeast of Princeton, was called into being June 18th, 1836, by Eli Nichols.  It was vacated by act of Legislature, Feb., 1840, after the bubbles of speculation had burst.

Within two miles of Fairmount, in a southwest direction, Livingston was laid off July 1st 1837, by Eli Lapsley.

Providence (from the capital of Rhode Island, whence the colony that settled it came) dates from the 14th of July, 1836, when it was founded by Edward Bayley, Larned Scott, and Simeon G. Wilson.  The greater part of the colony for whom this beautiful prairie site was selected, consisting of thirty or forty families, arrived a year after, and wre cordially welcomed by the local press and people.  (See the Hennepin Journal for May 11, 1837; Peoria Register and Northwestern Gazetteer for June 3rd. '37.)

At the formation of Bureau County; its population was estimated at about 2,000 mainly scattered about the vicinity of the towns mentioned above. .  The large county of Putnam had grown cumbersome as the number of its inhabitants increased; and a division was now imperatively called for.  The proper petitions were forwarded to the Legislature; and on the 28th of February, 1837, an act was approved creating the county of Bureau.  (This name though French, is said to be derived from that of some Indian chief. Hennepin Herald, Feb. 1847.)

Its boundaries were defined as "beginning at the northeast corner of Putnam county, running thence south on the east boundary line of said conty to the centre of the main channel of the Illinois river to the place where the line dividing townships fourteen and fifteen north intersects said river, thence west on said line to the west line of said county, thence north of the western line of said county to the northern boundary thereof, and thence east with said county line to the place of beginning."  A considerable county was thus set off, embracing 814 square miles.  Additions have been made since, from the western border of Putnam, so that the county now comprises nearly 25 townships.

The provisions of the act, however, were not to be carried into effect unless a majority of the voters in Putnam county, including those of the contemplated county, should elect to make the division.  The election came off on the first Monday in April, and was one of the most exciting ever witnessed in the county.  

The voters west of the river, within the proposed limits of Bureau, voted almost en masse for the division; those on the east side were almost as strongly opposed; except a few in certain localities, who believed the removal of the county seat of Putnam probable, if Bureau were set off, and that their local interests would thus be promoted.  The proposition prevailed by a majority of between thirty anf forty.  So much interest was felt in the result, that a general rejoicing took place throughout Bureau when it was fully known.  By the citizens of Princeton the news was greeted with many huzzas, bonfires, torch light processions and other tokens of joy (Sketches of Princeton, page 45.)

William Stadden, Peter Butler and Benj. Mitchell were appointed Commissioners to designate the seat of justice for the  new county.  Ther performed their duty in May, and located the county seat at Princeton.  On the first Monday, in June, the first election was held, when Arthur Bryant, R.C. Masters and Wm. Hoskins were chosen County Commissioners; and Bureau entered upon its separate history.


In that portion of Putnam from which Stark county was constitued, there were very few settlers prior to 1835.  In 1834, a cluster of farms known as Essex's settlement, existed near the junction of the east and the west branches of Spoon river, which had a grist and saw mill in operation and a post office. (Peck's Gazeteer, 1st ed., p. 235).  In December of the next year, a young Vermonter took a claim about 12 miles north of Wyoming, and threw up a crude log house.  There was then no settler within five miles of him.  This was called the Osceola Grove settlement.  In less than a year, it contained five families, and by the close of 1838 over thirty families had made their homes there. Settlements were also extended along Spoon river, the Indian and Walnut Creeks, and about Fraker's Grove, by the time the county was formed.  The first settlers were for the most part Kentuckians.

Stark obtained its full share of towns during the speculating mania of 1836-7.  The first laid off was Wyoming in the Essex settlement, founded May 3rd, 1836, by Gen. Samuel Thomas.  The progress of this place was very slow.  Nearly two years after its survey the only building, (a store and post office) upon the site is spoken of as "a second-hand seven-by-nine log smoke house."  (Communication from Lacon Herald for April 11, 1838).  It was, nevertheless, a prominent candidate for the location of the county seat, and is now a village of some size.

Osceola was situated on a large piece of ground eleven miles north of Wyoming, with a fine "Washington Square" in the center.  It was surveyed July 7th, 1836, for Robert Moore, James C. Armstrong, Thos. J. Hurd, D. C. Emos, and Edward Dickinson, proprietors.  The town-plat was vacated by Legislative enactment Feb. 14th, 1855.

Moulton was laid off three miles west of Wyoming, "in the Military Bounty Tract," on the 29th of August 1836, by Robert Schuyler, Russell H. Nevins, Wm. Couch, Abijah Fisher and David Lee.

Massillion was situated seven miles nearly due south of the present site of Toulon, not far from the southern boundary of the county.  Its proprietor was Stephen Freckel, date of survey, April 13, 1837.

Lafayette, on the western border in that part of the county which was taken from Knox, was also laid off before Stark was formed.

The people of the Spoon river country had early felt the great inconvenience of attending courts and transacting their public business at Hennepin; and movements for a new county had been inaugurated before Bureau was erected.  At the same session of 1836-7, when the act creating the latter was passed, an act "for the formation of the county of Coffee" was approved.  The new county was to be eighteen miles square, and comprising nine full townships, - six taken from Putnam, two from Knox and one from Henry county.  Benj. Mitchell and Richard N. Cullom, of Tazewell, and Samuel Hackleton of Fulton, were the commissioners to select a site for the county seat, which if located on land not before laid out as a town, should be called Ripley.

Courts were to be held at the house of Elijah McClanahan, Sr., unless otherwise provided by the County Commissioners, or until public buildings should be erected.  The act was not to take effect unless a majority of the voters in Knox and Henry counties, at an election on the 16th of April, 1837, should sanction it. Putnam was allowed no voice in the proceeding.  The project failed on the vote, and Coffee county was no more.  (It appears, however, on several maps of that day.)

A fresh effort was made at the session of the Legislature the next winter, for the creation of a new county on Spoon river; but with no better success. A gentleman of Hennepin, Thomas Atwater, Esq., was then representing Putnam in the General Assembly; and it was believed that his action was shaped so as to defeat the wishes of his constituents in the western part of the county.

A more vigourous attempt was made in 1838, continuing through a great part of the year.  The question of a new county was made the leading issue in the canvass for another Representative.  As early as February, a meeting was held at the house of Mr. James Holgate, near Wyoming, where it was resolved by a majority to petition the next Legislature for a new county; to protest against the Illinois river as a boundary on the east, and which had been proposed by a portion of the people; and to nominate Wm H. Henderson for Representative in order to the success of their plans.

After adjournment, a meeting of the disaffected minority, some fifteen or twenty in number, was held, and resolutions passed to accept the river as a boundary, and to put Thos. S. Elston, Esq. of Bureau county, in nomination for the Legislature.  Mr. Elston, however, does not appear to have become a candidate.  Others were nominated in different parts of the Putnam and Bureau; but only the names of Col. Henderson, of the Wyoming neighborhood, Ammon Moon and B. M. Hayes of Hennepin and Andrew Burns of Magnolia, were conspicuous in the canvass.  

In an address to the electors of the district, published in the local papers, Col. Henderson stated that in relation to the division of Putnam county, he should lay down as a basis for his action two lines, to wit; the line dividing ranges eight and nine, east of the fourth principal meridian, and another which had reference to the formation of Marshall county.  He was elected by a plurality of nearly one hundred over his competitors, receiving the almost unanimous vote of Spoon River, Lafayette and Lacon precincts.

Notice for a petition for a new county was advertised according to law in October. On the 16th of January 1839, in the House of Representatives, Col. Henderson presented the petition of citizens of Putnam, Henry and Knox counties, praying for formation of a new county; which was referred to the proper Committee.  In due time a bill was reported for an act to establish the county of STARK; which was twice read, and referred to a select Committee, who returned it with several amendments, which were adopted by a close vote.  The bill was unsatisfactory to certain local interests, and was lost upon the final reading, as also the next day upon a reconsideration of the vote.

On the 20th of February, the Committee on Counties presented the same object in a different shape, under the title of "An act to dispose of the territory west of the Illinois river, in the county of Putnam, and for other purposes."  It passed the House with a little difficulty, and was amended in the Senate, the title being changed to "An act for the formation of the county of Stark, and for other purposes."  The amendments were concurred in by the House, and the Council of Revision approved the act March 2, 1839.

Stark county contained at this time about 1,000 inhabitants, 200 of whom were voters.  The boundaries of the county were designated as they now exist - six townships being taken from Putnam, and two from Knox county (provided, in the latter case, that a majority of voters in the two townships should give their consent, which they appear to have done.)  An election of county officers was ordered to be held on the first Monday in April following, at the house of Elijah McClannahan Sr.  The County Commissioners, when elected, were instructed to demand of the Treasurer of Putnam, a sixth part of $9,870, received by him under the Internal Improvement act.  The county seat, when located, should be called TOULON.  Provision was not made for the selection of its site, however, until the next year, when the Legislature passed an act to that effect, appointing Commissioners to make the present site, where not a house then stood.

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